Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament to host MHL stars

I've published an article at Russian Prospects about the upcoming Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, which will feature some of the top MHL young players.
Ivan Hlinka Tournament is an international Under 18 tournament which is played every year in Czech Republic and Slovakia featuring national teams of Russia, Canada, USA, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Sweden, Finland and Switzerland. There will be two groups, one in Breclav (Czech Republic), and another in Piestany (Slovakia). Russia will play in the latter with USA, Slovakia and Finland. The winners of the two groups will face in the tournament's final, scheduled for August 15th.

Team Russia will play two preparation matches in Norway, against the local under 18 national team, on August 8th and 9th. Yesterday (August 6th), a match between Under 20 and Under 18 Russian national teams has been played, and oddly enough the younger team got the W 2-1 with goals by Bogdan Potekhin and Stefan Stepanov. Washington Capitals' prospect Dmitry Kugryshev scored for the Under 20 team.

The star of the selection will be undoubtedly Kirill Kabanov, but most likely he won't play in the MHL next year and thus the most interesting players for our purpose are the following (two for role):

G Pavel Suchkov (Krasnaya Armiya) and Kirill Brashkin (Ladia Togliatti)

The two players will probably share starting duties, with Suchkov maybe advantaged. They are two good goalies, but both probably a little bit undersized, especially the first. Though they are going to backstop their hometown club in the first MHL season. 

D Stefan Stepanov and Alexei Marchenko (Krasnaya Armiya)

Both premier offensive defenseman, Stepanov and Marchenko will probably play in the top two lines. Stepanov, who did score in the exhibition against the Under 20 team, has already played in the National Junior team last year in the Tyumen tournament, being one of the youngest players in the team, while Marchenko has played only for Russia-92. Though Marchenko has been portraited as one of the four "faces of the league" for the MHL. Both have NHL potential, but probably Stepanov is more NHL ready as far as now, especially regarding the physical play.

F Vladislav Namestnikov (Feniks) and Sergei Barbashev (Krasnaya Armiya)

Just as usual, the forwards are the strongest part of team Russia. Kirill Kabanov is surely the team's star, but he's going to play in the KHL for Salavat Yulaev Ufa. Vladislav Namestnikov, who plays for Khimik Voskresensk's junior team, is a skilled center with elite technique and excellent mental game who makes him a clutch player, while CSKA's Sergei Barbashev is your prototypical Russian winger, very quick and a tad small. 

Other prospects with potential are Stanislav Galiev (who's going to play for St. John in the QMJHL), Stalnye Lisy's Evgeny Grigorenko and center Ivan Telegin, who recently bought off his contract with Metallurg Novokuznetsk in order to go playing in the OHL.

But two of the most interesting players to watch will be the younger ones: Nail Yakupov and Mikhail Grigorenko. Both 2012 eligible, if we were some years ago (with less NHL-KHL conflicts) they might have been thought as possible 1-2 in the draft like Ovechkin and Malkin in 2004. Late 1993-born Nail Yakupov, from Nizhnekamsk, is a speedy, technical winger, while Mikhail Grigorenko, who is from Khabarovsk even if plays for CSKA Moscow, is a dominant playmaking center who played last year first line hockey with Team Russia-93, surely a great result for a player one year younger than the rest. This season he made a further step forward as he'll play with (and against) players two years older than him.

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